Wednesday, April 11, 2012
In Sunday school this year we're studying the book of Mormon and have recently covered Jacob 5. It's all about the allegory of the olive tree. The vineyard, fruit, spots of ground, grafting, pruning, digging, gathering, laboring etc... During the allegory some of the trees have both good and evil fruit on them. It says in one part that the evil fruit takes over the good (vs 37) and the tree becomes corrupt. The "loftiness" of the vineyard in another part (vs 48) is said to be the culprit for fruit failures.
For this post post I'm going to use the vocabulary of Zenos' allegory, but apply it in a unique way to present day.
The goal of the Gospel is to produce fruit after all. That is it's purpose. Fruit is what is "stored up". It refers to people. People and souls are what matter. The Church has a role in this "produce department" so to speak. I saw this as a missionary. The Church often facilitates and provides tools and an environment that is God inspired. When the Church is aligned with the Gospel, it helps facilitate the nurturing and growth of fruit. Such as converts, Joy and happiness, fellowship, ordinances, truth, opportunity to learn, grow and serve, and lift others. It's a great thing.
But like the allegory sometimes there are different kinds of fruit growing in the vineyard. One of the fruits, or things coming out of the church I noticed recently is the Citi Creek Shopping mall. The church has humanitarian fruits, political fruits, missionary fruits, and all sorts of fruit. And lots of it is good. So what about this Citi Creek project? We need to assess the fruit we produce don't we? In verbiage of the Jacob 5 allegory, would this fruit (the mall) be considered evil, wild, or good? Keeping in mind that fruit is a saved soul. For the church to justify the expense of literally billions of dollars, you'd think there would be some direct correlation to the work of salvation. Otherwise how am I to call the fruit good? If the fruit is not something savable, or can with the maximum stretch be able to be classified under Christs's teachings, then is it possible such fruit is wild?
As I understand it, and taught as a missionary, none of the missions of the church are to get gain. ALL the missions of the church relate to souls and fruit. So if there is a major fruit produced by the institution that doesn't support any of the Church's missions, I'm left to call the fruit "wild". If God is attempting to lay up fruit, or saved souls.....I don't know that a shopping mall ever produced one of those. It can't. It lacks the inherent ability to do so. That is not it's purpose.
A Church needs things like temples, church meeting houses, scriptures, manuals, books, etc..... all of them are in some way designed to help facilitate something related to the Gospel and salvation. They support the missions of the Church. A shopping mall on the other hand may attract large groups of people, and appeal to the temporal aspects of their lives, (at least to those who can afford to buy things there) but it has a different purpose than a Church. Therefore I'm again left wondering if this massive project represents a form of fruit that is a bit wild. Or in other words not linked to the root and is disconnected from the saving and living vine.
I also say "wild" because I'm not sure which mission of the Church the shopping mall falls under. Does it perfect the saints? Does it redeem the dead? Does it preach the Gospel? At best any involvement in those missions would be indirect, while the primary purpose is to get gain. Saving souls is foreign to our shopping centers, and commerce. Jesus drove money changers out of the temple. This mall brings the money changers right across the street from the temple. Perhaps the mall's saving grace are the homeless who ask for help at the entrances. We should thank them perhaps.
Some nonmembers may visit Temple square as a result of being attracted to downtown by the mall. We have to also consider there may be another category of folks who will actually NOT visit Temple square, or leave quickly, due to instead being engrossed/distracted by the mall. Now I don't know, but it seems fair to at least consider that possibility. The mall itself doesn't directly support the Church's missions any more than any other mall does. The only hope in this effort would be it's physical proximity to Temple square. But Citi Creek has much more attractive water features, and has fountains which play to music and even have fire in the water. During the most recent General Conference, the headlines of the day were "Conference Goers visit Citi Creek in droves" All the buzz caused lots to actually leave temple square and go instead to the mall.
One important issue, in my view, is that our own scriptures warn about things like a great and spacious building where occupants wear "fine apparel" and who end up mocking things that they shouldn't. Yet we simply fail to see that we may be the subjects of the prophecy. We think it's some metaphor about some other people who ironically aren't reading the Book of Mormon. Strangely no one else fits the mold better than us. Are scriptures talking about the fine apparel at the Grammy Awards? Or perhaps a 5 billion dollar complex (where you can literally adorn yourself with the finest apparel available) across from a Temple? Food for thought.
The fruit we produce is one way to measure the type of future we are headed towards. Lets suppose the intended investment potential of this mall, and the economic returns surpass everyone's expectations. We would gain the whole world but how many souls were saved? Using the vocabulary of the allegory by one point of view that could be called "wild fruit which overcometh the roots". Church's built up to "get gain" are something covered in quite painful detail by Nephi (1 Nephi 22:23).
I think this allegory by Zenos quoted by Jacob calls some fruit "evil" because it can't save a soul, it's a thing not worth preserving into eternity. Therefore "evil" because it deters or corrupts God's work and glory. There are many ways to beautify downtown Salt Lake City. What kinds of fruits are our actions growing? Good, evil, wild?